Met zijn debuut ‘Brown Sugar’ werd D’Angelo meteen een van de vaandeldragers van de neo-soul samen met Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu en Maxwell. Na zijn debuutalbum volgden enkel gastbijdragen, ondermeer op Lauryn Hill haar album ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’, en duurde het tot 2000 voor de opvolger ‘Voodoo’ er kwam. De plaat werd opnieuw een succes mede dankzij de song “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” en de sexy videoclip van het nummer. Na het succes ging het jammerlijk bergaf. Op enkele gastbijdragen viel er voornamelijk minder positief te rapen wat D’Angelo betreft: enkele aanvaringen met het gerecht, verhalen over verslavingen allerhande en voornamelijk veel negatieve geruchten.
Groot was dan ook de verbazing toen er eind vorig jaar over een nieuwe tour werd gesproken en velen hadden de hoop al opgegeven. D’Angelo gaf de critici en twijfelaars vlot ongelijk met zijn concerten begin dit jaar en het was duidelijk dat hij het podium net zo gemist had als de soul en funkmuziek hem gemist hebben het afgelopen decennium. Er wordt ondertussen zelfs weer luidop gesproken van een opvolger voor ‘Brown Sugar’ en ‘Voodoo’ die zo goed als klaar zou zijn. We hebben er lang moeten op wachten maar D’Angelo is wel degelijk terug.
The son and grandson of Pentecostal preacher men, D'Angelo was raised up on church music. His first professional music contract was a publishing deal. And his first work of note was the anthem "U Will Know" - written for the movie Jason's Lyric, sung by an all-star group under the moniker B.M.U. (Black Men United), and featuring Gerald Levert, Brian McKnight, Aaron Hall and Stokley of Mint Condition, among a sea of many more soul men.
However, once D'Angelo began recording his own music, he deftly integrated defiant slabs of hip hop attitude, collaborating with DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest on his debut "Brown Sugar," rappers Redman and Method Man on "Left & Right," and Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson - leader/drummer of The Roots - a heavy presence on D's sophomore Voodoo sessions. Perhaps most potent of anything in his canon is "Devil's Pie," a scathing yet swinging rundown on runaway hedonism - produced by DJ Premier of Gang Starr, introduced in the urban flick, Belly, and a worthy successor to the soundtrack classics of Curtis Mayfield.
Also of note were D’Angelo’s obvious homage to the sensual vocal layering of Marvin Gaye, the falsetto flights of Prince, and the bulls-eye of Al Green's unfettered soul. Then there were his lyrical gifts, such as the sticky-icky/sexy-sexy double-entendres of "Brown Sugar" and the more literally lovely “Me and Those Dreamin’ Eyes of Mine.” His jazzy side first showed through on "Smooth" on which he kicked a piano solo alongside guitarist Mark Whitfield, then sprouted wings on later recordings and tours with trumpeter Roy Hargrove and guitarist Charlie Hunter. Though the openness of his tracks attracted the nouveau avant-garde’, when it came time for the mega hits, D'Angelo found the perfect partner in Raphael Saadiq, the former lead singer of Tony! Toni! Toné! who co-penned and co-produced his two biggest love songs: "Lady" and "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" - which both peaked at 2 on Billboard's Top R&B Singles chart. D returned the favor as a guest on Saadiq's ghetto fabulous "Be Here."
It wasn't long after his meteoric ascendance to soul royalty status that D'Angelo was recording duets with two of the most conscious daughters in the game: Erykah Badu (on Marvin & Tammi's "Your Precious Love") and Lauryn Hill (on the sensuous afterglow gem "Nothing Even Matters"). To flex his affinity and affection for the soul gold of old, D'Angelo recorded plenty-plenty covers, including Smokey's "Cruisin'," Prince's "She's Always in My Hair," and original Temptations member Eddie Kendricks' revolutionary club classic "Girl, You Need a Change of Mind." Best of all was his take on Roberta Flack's "Feel Like Makin' Love" (so sexy it was prominently used in an episode of the The 'L' Word) and "Heaven Must Be Like This," a serene masterpiece primarily penned by Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner of the Ohio Players that sweetly captured the crux of D'Angelo's spiritual and sensual sides.
D’Angelo’s most memorable - and notorious - promotional stunt was his beefcake video turn for "Untitled." By the arrival of Voodoo, brother man definitely had his mojo workin’ - boasting a six-pack and musculature for miles. The camera lovingly and languorously panned his chocolate chiseled torso - stopping just short of his crotch. The most enamored of admirers were reported to have rushed their TV sets, peering directly down the screen, in vain, for…“more.”
Now all fans are fiendin’ for more of his music, which the man will begin delivering this year. D’Angelo spent the last few years tightening up his game. Now “Playa Playa 1” is back in the lab orchestrating both new music and his return. And when all the galactic elements align within their righteous celestial patterns, you can best believe Brother D’Angelo will be breakin’ us off with some wickedly twisted new alchemy.